Sunday, March 10, 2013

Analyzing "How to be a Good Manager" - for the fun of it.


One of the people I follow on Twitter is @mguhlin (Miguel Guhlin) for his educational insights and for some of the thought-provoking things he shares.  Recently, he shared a post called "How to be a Good Manager" written by David. C. Baker. I read the list. Several things, as with most "lists" nowadays, are decidedly tongue-in-cheek.  Other things make me wonder if something was lost in translation from brain-to-post or if Mr. Baker really believes them*. Allow me the fun of covering each of his points:


  1. This is most certainly in reference to "Ratatouille" in which we learn that "Anyone CAN cook, but it doesn't mean they should." While anyone CAN be a manager, not everyone should - evil or not.
  2. I assume he means, "Being in management doesn't make you special." Then again, I suppose this could be one of those self-affirmation things: Management doesn't make you special. Only YOU can make you special.
  3. I agree - some of your best workers may be entitled to higher compensation than their manager based on the skills they bring to the table. It's okay if they make more. Managers aren't there to make more money than their charges, they are there to manage them.
  4. I would be interested to know just what alternate career paths there. If management isn't the path for growth, what is? Where does a programmer go once s/he is lead programmer (which in itself is a management position)?  Where does a custodian go in the chain? What if there are no paths for growth (say, a receptionist)?
  5. Agreed. Important information should come from the direct upline as often as possible.
  6. Agreed. If someone is promoted simply because of longevity/tenure or for other non-skill-related reasons, it undermines employee morale.
  7. I don't understand "biggest danger." That should be defined or explained. How are they a danger? Frankly, anyone in your employ who doesn't fit with company culture should either be trained to fit with the company culture or be asked to seek employment elsewhere.
  8. Agreed. Nearly every job I've had laid out the ground rules. Most have given me 90 days to 'get it or get out.' It's not mean or cruel. It's the way it is, and the way it should be.
  9. Maybe. But, sometimes, when a person gets fired, the team members are not aware of all the factors involved. In general, though, I can see his point.
  10. I agree to an extent. I think it depends on the job. When I worked as an HR Clerk, everything was laid out and the expectations were lined out verbatim. As a Technology Coordinator (read, Director), some things were lined out, but I was left to develop the position as needed. In fact, it is a VERY fluid type of position, changing from day-to-day sometimes. Employees must have the freedom to mold a position into their own.
  11. Agreed 100%! A good manager doesn't know everything about everything his/her employees do. They should hire the people that will do the job and let them do it.
  12. Haha! I think the 'personality profile' thing falls under the "stupid line" period.
  13. Agreed! Sometimes, a person will be a good manager without having the title. And, if/when they get the title, no one is really surprised.
  14. Agreed. See #13.  When promoting from within, most of the employees should not be surprised at all by the choice. And, that should be a good thing - not a demeaning/rumor-filled one.
  15. I agree. People want to know what's expected, what the boundaries are (not that they won't test them), and what the procedures are. They also want to know WHEN certain things are going to happen ahead of time - evaluations, national certification audits, etc.
  16. Agree 100%. I have worked for companies where we were 'expected' to come early/stay late even though we were hourly 'grunts.' It wasn't my business/company. They didn't pay me to have that kind of investment. To that end, they gave me no real reason to have such an investment. By the end, I hated working there and left.
  17. Agree, sorta. As for the timekeeping part: yes. Set the expectations and discipline those who do not meet the expectation on a consistent basis (there are always exceptions in limited circumstances). As for the "wuss" part... How do you, as an author of such a piece, expect anyone to take you seriously when you use words like "wuss" in your post? Really?
  18. Absolutely! See #13. The folks within that are leaders without the title are the ones other employees feel they can talk to, relate to. Not every leader in your company will have a 'leadership title.'
  19. Agreed. Middle Management is (and should be) often the buffer between higher administrators and the other workers. Believe me, as non-managerial employees, they need that buffer. And sometimes, a filter or translator. Middle management should fill all those roles.
  20. Control freaks? Heads exploding? How about something constructive, man? 
  21. Agreed! Besides, having all those "motivational" posters and "company motto" posters everywhere usually serves to remind the employees of what is NOT happening within the company.  Don't post about it - show it, do it, lead by example.
  22. Agreed. Often, though, mustering up the courage to address an employee situation head-on takes much more than we ever anticipated because we never expected to find ourselves in the situation to begin with.  We know we should rip off the bandage, and we know it is going to hurt.
  23. Agreed! How many companies serve as orphanages rather than businesses? We refuse to let people go simply because "we like them" or "they're our friend" or "that's my cousin?" I know it's ugly, but business is business. (Which, by the way, is why my wife said she could never work for me - I can be something of a 'stern' manager)
  24. I love this! What a great analogy between a dog doing his business and employees doing theirs. I love the idea of multiple evaluations spread throughout the year. I had not even thought of that before reading it in his post.  That serves as my major "Ah Ha!" moment of the piece. Great!
  25. Agreed 100%! A "bonus" is just that - extra money for a job well done above and beyond what is expected. When the bonus comes every year, people feel entitled to them. Heck, some employees may even DEMAND they be given. Excuse me!? This is a BONUS, not an entitlement check.
  26. Agreed. Well, except for the 'up your meds' part. 
  27. Agreed. Trying to report to two direct supervisors can put some employees in a bind, especially if those two supervisors have conflicting ideas or expectations of duties. It is especially hard if the employee is serving in multiple roles with multiple supervisors.  There should be one voice of authority for each employee. 
  28. Agreed. We cannot expect our employees to finish the tasks assigned to them if managers are constantly interrupting them with other things they want them to do. Managers must make the effort to limit those interruptions.
  29. Agreed! Celebrate success and be fun about it. Life is way too short to make the workplace a dreaded place to be all the time.
  30. Agreed, sorta. If you haven't been doing open-book management and then you implement it when things "suck" (as he says), then keep it open-book from that point on. And, I think that was his point: don't do it, then turn it off, then do it and turn it off again. As he said: Do it. Or don't.
  31. Agreed. The stuff we employees make up in our heads is WAY worse than the reality of the situation. Just tell us if there is bad news. We can take it.
  32. Agreed. Get rid of everyone at the same time. Likewise, don't set up a meeting where threats or hints of layoffs are tossed around. That's not managing - that's rule by fear and intimidation, and we hate that.
  33. Agreed. But, also make sure you aren't firing someone just because you don't get along or because they haven't caught on to things. Unless, of course, you have implemented #8. Then, cut them loose.
  34. Agreed. Unless it is a family business. I mean, if it is a family business, you may have to hire family members. In that case, be sure they know the ground rules and expectations. Either way, it's not easy.
  35. Agreed. If you hire people you don't trust, then why did you hire them? If you 'inherited' people, you have to give the benefit of the doubt. Trust them. They really do want to help you succeed. And, a little thank you wouldn't hurt.
  36. Agreed. Employees prefer a positive reaction to bad news, but even if your reaction is not good - be consistent. At least folks will know what to expect.
  37. As for hiring for need, that depends on a whole lot of factors. But, I agree with the sentiment there. As a business grows, necessity dictates how you fill postions rather than how much you can afford (or are willing) to pay someone.
  38. I can't speak for this one, and I can only assume that comes from his own experiences with hiring high-priced, high-profile personnel.
  39. Agree. And, yes, even with the "Groundhog Day" reference, I think it is important to get yourself out of the "same-stuff, different-day" routine. If it is broke, fix it. Pronto.
  40. Evidently, the new employee training to which Mr. Baker refers comes from something he has seen. I do agree, though, that there should be a new hire process that ALL new hires go through or none go through it.
  41. Partially Agree. If your first thought is anything negative about going to work, it is time for a change somewhere. If you are the owner, it's time to find that thing that made you want to open the business in the first place. If you are a manager, it is time to evaluate your situation openly and honestly: WHY do you feel that way? What don't you like? How can you change it? Who can you talk to about changing those things that need it? Do you need to find a new career? I do not mean the last one to sound trite or to be funny. Sometimes, the problem is that we are tired of doing the same thing every day and we want to challenge ourselves with something new.
  42. Agree. It amazes me how many business leaders claim they have/had no control over how quickly their business grew. Actually, they had full control over that. If you are growing too quickly to handle, then stop growing. Sometimes, that means turning away new business until you have a plan of attack. Don't worry. If your business is in that much demand, people will come back. Give them an incentive to return: discounts, a timeline, something.
  43. Agreed! Few things are worse on your bottom line and on employee morale than having "nothing to do."  What is worse? Having a few employees that work their tails off while others complain about having nothing to do. That needs to be fixed: Either create the opportunity for those folks to do something (maybe share duties), or let them go. If they are really only needed a few days out of the week, then adjust their schedule (and salary) accordingly.
  44. Agreed! As I said above, people with little to do will suck the morale out of other workers. Plus, if they think they are not being used to their fullest potential, employees will have low morale. On the other end, if I am running at full speed all day, every day, I will be burned out and run into the ground. I will have low morale. The key is to find just the right balance. The problem is that finding that balance is not always easily nor quickly done.
  45. Agree completely here, too. One of my favorite anecdotes regards companies that have hired less-than-academically-stellar employees over ivy-league graduates because of people skills and other "soft" skills that some of the uber-smart ivy-league graduates just didn't have.
  46. Interesting. I suppose people in positions where writing is not their core duty might be exempt for this bit of advice. I do agree, though, that employees that have ANY contact with the outside world should be able to express themselves in such a manner that does not reflect negatively on your company. I say this goes for speaking as well. There are few things, to me, that set me aback faster than a manager (or higher administrator) that drops cuss words into regular, daily conversation for no apparent reason. There are thousands of words from which to choose - choose wisely.
  47. Agree. I hate group interviews. I took part in a group interview to be a sales guy at a radio station one time. After talking at us (he did not talk TO us), the manager asked, "Why should I hire you?" and went to each person around the table. I wanted to stop the interview right there, ask the manager to leave, then charge $500 to anyone that wanted to buy the answer from me.  I knew the answer from his demeanor, from the words he chose, from the way he talked about everything he (thought) knew about the radio business. I answered, "Because I will make you a lot of money." I was hired. I quit within a week. 
  48. Partially agree.  While I do believe that having kids can help, I don't think telling everyone they will only get the best training for management by having kids is the way to go. On the other hand, having a role model boss in your past is dead on. I have one in my past that all other managers are compared to and she set the standard by which I try to manage. I am incredibly thankful for her guidance, insight, and leadership when I was a young man trying to figure things out. She was not my first manager, either. She was the first really good one, in my opinion, though.

*In my defense, and/or maybe Mr. Baker's defense, I had never read one of his articles before. Maybe he always writes posts sprinkled with tongue-in-cheek moments. I think there are right times to do that, and there are times when that should be tabled. It depends on the context, the audience, and the message being conveyed. Over all, I liked the points he made. It's just hard to take some of his advice seriously because of some of the phrasing. But, that's just me.

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